Southeast Missouri State University student publication

"A Raisin in the Sun" to make history again, this time as a River Campus production.

Monday, April 16, 2018
Aalayah Norwood and Jay Wade portray the roles of Ruth and Walter Lee during a dress rehearsal for 'A Raisin in the Sun.'
Photo by Josh Dodge

In 1957, “A Raisin in the Sun” became the first play in history written by an African American to appear on Broadway.

More than fifty years later, it will break ground again as the first play written by an African American to be performed at Southeast.

Additionally, it will be the first River Campus performance ever to employ a predominantly black cast.

Aalayah Norwood and Jay Wade portray the roles of Ruth and Walter Lee in a dress rehearsal for 'A Raisin in the Sun.'
Photo by Josh Dodge

Bedell Performance Hall will be transported back in time to the south side of 1950s Chicago to tell a story of family, racism and hard-living.

The significance of the performance lies in its being the first River Campus production of a play written by an African American person, as well as the first performance with a predominantly black cast.

“A Raisin in the Sun” was written by Lorraine Hansberry in 1957. She gained the inspiration from a poem named “Harlem,” also known as “A Dream Deferred” written by Langston Hughes, a prominent figure of the Harlem renaissance.

Hansberry's story became the first play in history written by a black woman to premiere on Broadway in 1959.

Tyla Abercrumbie, an actress from Chicago known for her close relationship with the play, has been invited to help direct the River Campus' production.

Abercrumbie said her role as assistant director is important to addressing a story of African American experience.

“I think all of the messages in ‘Raisin in the Sun’ are equally important to what’s going on today,” Abercrumbie said.

Abercrumbie said today's youth may not be recognizing the significance of the more than 50-year-old play. Despite its age, the story still holds relevance.

“If you don’t understand this story, then you don’t understand your own story,” Abercrumbie said.

One thing Abercrumbie hopes the audience takes away is the realization not much progress has been made in terms of race and equality in America.

“There’s so many experiences to be dissected besides the white experience on stage, and so many wonderful plays to be done besides the classics like ‘Big River,’” Abercrumbie said. “Those plays had a place in history and were groundbreaking when they were created, but you shouldn’t be willing to tell that story if you’re not willing to tell this story.”

Kanisha Kellum, one of the students who will be performing in “A Raisin In the Sun,” expressed her love for the play and spoke to the significance of its production at River Campus.

“Raisin has been one of my favorite plays since I learned about it in high school,” Kellum said. “Whenever I read it, it was just this raw truthfulness that I haven’t seen before especially with me being an African-American woman.”

"A Raisin in the Sun" will be performed at the Bedell Performance Hall at 7:30 April 18-22 with matinee times on April 20 at 10 a.m. and April 22 at 2 p.m.

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